Review: Fame Whore (King’s Head)

The first of a double-bill I watched last night at the King’s Head Theatre Pub, Fame Whore (the creation of Tom Ratcliffe – writer/director, and Gigi Zahir – lyricist/performer) finally sashays its way onto the stage after a COVID enforced absence.

Backy Biro and Cindy Sawfoot (the first of many name puns which will amuse throughout this show) perform together as the “Powderpuff Swirls”.

When Cindy gets noticed by Drag Show Factor and achieves a level of fame Becky can only sniff at, she finds herself alone, grasping at new means to increase her followers.

On the surface a comedy cabaret, Fame Whore charts the bald desperation influencers feel to become and stay relevant. The likes, the comments, the algorithms.

It echos this through live songs, video calls, social media platforms, a TV appearance and even a Zoom meeting which may remind you of a couple of viral stories from lockdown.

Production image from Fame Whore

Zahir plays all the parts brilliantly, whether in Becky’s blue frightwig engaging with her fans, as Cindy selling herself out in an ad, or as various attendees at an online meeting.

Becky is a glorious creation, barbed, vicious, and conflicted. She has plans for her career, but she may underestimate what it takes to get there.

Although I haven’t laughed so much at a show for ages – the wordplay and technical mimicry of familiar logos and settings is superb, and the in-jokes scattered with a sure hand – there is a serious message here about the online abuse of trans and non-binary folks, and the damage this causes.

Zahir, a non-binary performer, is better known as Crayola the Queen but encompasses all kinds of theatre, drag, comedy and cabaret in their act. They have such a strong stage persona it is quite right that they have the complete spotlight in Fame Whore.

Ratcliffe’s writing continues to mature and I continue to watch and enjoy his work. This show’s delay has allowed him to bring it right up to the moment where the likes of JK Rowling have stirred the pot about gender identities.

Production shot from Fame Whore

Although acknowledging the problems of terfdom, this show still has a feel of celebration about it, of “be who you are”.

I need to mention Miss Jake’s costumes, which are fun, and Alys Whitehead’s magnificent set design, which makes the most of the theatre’s intimate space. Hugo Dodsworth’s lighting, Jac Cooper’s sound, and Jayd Kent’s videography make the space sensational.

Fame Whore, which runs at 85 minutes without interval, is a show which is so good it will leave you smiling and thinking at the same time. It’s a five star triumph.

You can see Fame Whore at the King’s Head until 29 October – book your tickets here.

Image credit: Charles Flint Photography

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